Architecture in Cincinnati: An Illustrated History of Designing and Building an American Cityby Sue Ann Painter, Alice Weston (Photographer), Beth Sullebarger (Text by)
Cincinnati was the first “great” city founded afterAmerican independence, and its prodigious growth reflected the rise of the new nation. Its architectureis a testament to that growth and to the importance of the city itself.Architecture in Cincinnati: An Illustrated History of Designing and Building an American City tracesthe city’s development from the first town plans of the 1780s to the city that it is today, renowned for its dramatic architectural achievements. It is a fascinating story of patrons, politicians, architects, engineers, and planners building a city.Bringing the city’s rich architectural history to life inluminous color photographs by noted photographer Alice Weston, Architecture in Cincinnati captures the beauty of the Queen City and the spirit of individual buildings, bridges, and urban places. Supplemented by historical images and interesting sidebars, Architecture in Cincinnati is an informative and lavishly illustrated book that will inspire renewed pride of place in residents of the city. Nonresidents and students of architectural and urban history will enjoy this authoritative introduction to aremarkable—yet typical—American city.
With the assistance of Beth Sullebarger, who runs a historic preservation consulting firm, and Jayne Merkel, an architectural historian and critic, Painter (director, Architectural Fdn. of Cincinnati) and photographer Weston have done a fine job producing the first full architectural history of the sometime "Queen City." Ten chapters chronicle the growth and evolution of Cincinnati since its founding in 1788 along the north bank of the Ohio River. The book follows this first inland boomtown through the 19th and 20th centuries, noting the influence of German immigrants in enhancing its architecture and culture. The authors also discuss planning errors and racial tension in the city and offer background information on generations of architects who have practiced there. Each chapter concludes with descriptions and illustrations of selected buildings from that time period. A map of present-day Greater Cincinnati might have been a helpful addition to historical city maps. Still, this valuable history will be of interest to public and academic libraries throughout Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana; recommended.
David R. Conn
Review By Jane Durrell, Cincinnati CityBeat
A big, handsome, ambitious book, Architecture in Cincinnati is just off the press, incorporating several insights to accomplish its subtitle's aim of "An Illustrated History of Designing and Building an American City."
Principl author Sue Ann Painter is executive director of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati, which produced the book for publication by Ohio University Press. "Our objective was to bring together the first chronological survey of Cincinnati's architecture, telling local history as the built environment reflects it," she says. "We each brought a slightly different perspective."
Beth Sullebarger, historic preservation consultant; Jayne Merkel, architectural historian and critic; and Alice Weston, environmental photographer, also contributed to the book. John E. Hancock, professor of architecture at the University of Cincinnati, served as editorial advisor.
Cincinnati's architecture lends itself to an historical approach with ease, this being a city that grew immensely in its early years. Cincinnati began to equate progress and culture with its buildings as it matured and, despite some unconsidered destruction, has preserved important portions of its heritage.
Meanwhile, new elements have come into being. More for better than worse, Cincinnati was the first major city to establish a Master Plan, in 1925, and was guided by it for 20 years, when a new plan went into place. Recognizing that a city is never independent from its surroundings, the book's scope extends to the immediate region on both sides of the river.
Painter, for more than a decade a public historian for the Cincinnati Historical Society, is the author of the book's first six chapters, covering historical material into the 20th century. Chapter headings tell the story in abridged fashion, beginning with "Frontier City to Regional Capital, 1788-1829," touching on "Queen of the West, 1830-60" and continuing through to "Modernism and Reform in City Building, 1920-33."
Sullebarger then takes over with "The Depression Era, 1933-44," bringing us up to today's world in the final chapter, "Dynamic Mix of New and Old, 1989-2006." In an interesting aside relevant to a city proud of its parks, she tells us about architectural styles in park structures. Merkel augments this latter section with a lively chapter titled "Toward the Bicentennial, New Versus Old, 1964-88."
Throughout the book Weston's luminous photographs show us where we are now and are supplemented from the copious collection of the Cincinnati Historical Society. Painter thanks her former colleagues at the Society for their help in locating images not previously published, and also historian Dan Hurley and architectural historian Walter Langsam, each of whom critiqued the manuscript. Langsam's extensive research on 19th-century buildings and architects, in particular, was a prime information source.
Interestingly, the story doesn't begin with that handful of settlers who struggled up the bank at Yeatman's Cove in December of 1788 but with the Native Americans who built here hundreds of years before. Indian mounds -- there once was one where Fountain Square stands -- were endlessly fascinating to its first European-stock inhabitants.
With our generously bestowing the Genius of the Water Fountain once again in place, it is telling to discover we have previously and regularly carped about her surroundings and set about to correct them. "The dingy blocks" around the Fountain's first location, an esplanade in the middle of Fifth Street, were eventually spruced up, and we have since provided first one and then another civic square to set her off. This is appropriate, as the Fountain -- one of the first public fountain sculptures in the country -- was a catalyst for a new way of thinking about art and architecture for the city, Painter writes, and has always provided a distinguishing focal point for civic life.
The book reflects our shared environment, with housing represented mostly in the aggregate. Even for those familiar with the city's architectural history, the approach here gives new insight to our surroundings.
Architecture in Cincinnati is readable and well illustrated, with appropriate scholarly accoutrements of notes, bibliography and good index supporting its generally upbeat look at the city. Cincinnati bashers should steer clear. They might end up liking the place after all. Grade: A.
Review by Sara Pearce, Cincinnati.com
I'm always itching to know about how cities develop and the evolution of their architecture, so I’ve been salivating at the thought of this fall’s release of “Architecture in Cincinnati: An Illustrated History of Designing and Building an American City” (Ohio University Press, $35 paperback, $70 hardcover).
It's fascinating and although packed with images, it goes far beyond coffee table eye candy by delving into the patrons, politicians, architects, engineers and planners who built the city.
Co-authors Sue Ann Painter, also the book’s managing editor, Beth Sullebarger and Jayne Merkel are or have been intimately involved in Queen City architecture – having written about it, helped to preserve it and to champion it.
Painter is director of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati.
Sullebarger has a historic preservaton consulting firm and once headed the Cincinnati Preservation Association. She curated the recent "Lost Cincinnati" exhibit at the Betts-Longworth House.
Merkel is a well-known and astute architecture critic who writes for all the A-list architecture magazines and whose most recent book, "Eero Saarinen", nabbed rave reviews. She lived in Cincinnati for many years, was the Enquirer's architecture columnist and in 2003 was honored by the American Institute of Architects for "exceptional contributions to the design and architecture community."
More than 300 images pack the pages from early town plans of the 1780s through today’s signature places and buildings. Along with historic images are new ones by long-time local photographer Alice Weston, who teamed up with architectural historian Walter E. Langsam on the 1997's “Great Houses of the Queen City.”
- Ohio University Press
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Meet the Author
Sue Ann Painter, a cultural and political historian, isdirector of the Architectural Foundation of Cincinnati. Her historical publications have won local, state, and national awards. Her most recent book, William Henry Harrison: Father of the West, is the first in a series on Ohio presidents.Beth Sullebarger is principal of a historic preservation consulting firm in Cincinnati. She has thirty years of experience in the field, includingseven years as director of the Cincinnati PreservationAssociation.Jayne Merkel, an architectural historian and critic, has written books about Michael Graves and Eero Saarinen. She was architecture critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer (1977–88). She is now a New York-based contributing editor for Architectural Design/AD in London and writes for numerous architectural journals in the United States.
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